PSO Presents $250,000 Grant to Reading Partners

Feb 13, 2020

Reading Partners Executive Director Justin Harlan (left) accepts a $250,000 grant from PSO President and CEO Peggy Simmons on Thursday at Wayman Tisdale Fine Arts Academy.
Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa nonprofit Reading Partners received on Thursday what they say is their biggest-ever corporate donation.

PSO presented the literacy tutoring group a five-year, $250,000 grant from its parent company’s AEP Foundation.

Reading Partners helps provide one-on-one reading tutoring from volunteers to kindergarteners through fourth graders in Tulsa Public Schools. Executive Director Justin Harlan said the grant will help Reading Partners expand into more schools and reach more than the roughly 1,700 students they did last year.

"The check won’t mean much to them, but the adults showing up will. You know, the relationship that they’re able to build and the way that the adult pours into the child and teaches them how to read — I mean, that has long-lasting impact on a child, and every little hour counts, every little dollar counts, and this is going to go such a long way," Harlan said.

Reading Partners is still in need of volunteers who can give an hour a week this school year.

PSO President and CEO Peggy Simmons said the electric utility sees literacy as essential to tomorrow’s workforce and leaders.

"We want every student to have that ability to grow up and have a sustainable living and be able to provide and contribute to society, and it starts at an early age in making sure that they have the fundamentals that they need. And literacy is one of those key building blocks," Simmons said.

The grant was presented at Wayman Tisdale Fine Arts Academy. Principal Elaine Buxton said they’ve been at her school three years, and she can vouch for them because her grandson started working with a Reading Partners tutor in first grade.

"He had a traumatic experience that happened in his life, and so he had stopped liking to read. And then when he got with Reading Partners and the person that was with him and started really just encouraging him back, now he loves reading, and now he’s doing well," Buxton said.

Buxton said Wayman Tisdale has 40 students in the Reading Partners program now. She’d like to see 60 in it next year.